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Shelter in Place

What is "Shelter in Place"?

Your local emergency response agencies are trained to handle emergencies. Whether they are natural disasters such as hurricanes or floods or personal disasters such as fires of accidents, they know what to do to protect the people of our area. In the event of a hazardous materials incident, these agencies will do four things to protect you and your family:


  1. They will identify the nature and severity of the incident and decide the most effective way to keep citizens safe.
  2. If the emergency requires use of the "First Call" system, citizens in the affected area may be notified and given directions to either "Shelter in Place" or to "evacuate" the area.
  3. They will dispatch emergency personnel and equipment to contain the release and to treat anyone who is likely to be affected.
  4. They will provide ongoing information about the incident and inform citizens when the emergency has passed.

While your emergency response agencies are doing their jobs, there are some simple things you can do to stay safe.

Sign Up for your community's emergency alerting system:

These emergency alerting systems deliver important emergency alerts, notifications and updates during a major crisis or emergency, in addition to day-to-day notices about weather and traffic and other important messages about public safety issues in your community. Messages will be delivered to all devices you register:
  • e-mail account
  • cell phone
  • text pager


What to Do?

If You Get a "First Call"...
"First Call" is an early-warning system giving you the time to take action. Homes and businesses in the affected area may receive a recorded message advising residents to "Shelter in Place" or to "evacuate".

In an emergency situation, turn on your radio or television. Local broadcasters should have emergency information you will need to remain safe. They may provide you with updated instructions, up-to-the-minute information about the incident and when it will be safe for you to return to your normal activities.

If You Are Instructed to "Shelter in Place"...
Sheltering in place is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from the release of hazardous material. Here's how to "Shelter in Place":


  • Immediately go inside.
  • Close and lock all doors and window; also close all vents and any other openings to the outside, including a fireplace damper.
  • Turn off all cooling, heating and ventilating systems. (Note: Some restroom vents are activated when lights are turned on.)
  • Go into a pre-determined room, preferable with restroom facilities and no windows or as few windows as possible.
  • Place a pre-cut plastic sheeting over windows, doors, and air vents and tape in place.
  • If you think chemicals are leaking into your home, cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth or towel.
  • Tune into your local news radio or television station to learn more about the emergency. Do not leave unless you are asked to do so.

During an emergency it is important not to place outgoing phone calls. Only call 911 if there is an injury or other immediate emergency. Do not call 911 for information on the status of the emergency.

Stay indoors and listen to the radio and/or television station as the incident is monitored by local officials.

If an evacuation is necessary, in most cases your local fire department or law enforcement agency will contact you with complete instructions on what to do. This may not done by using the first call system.

After An Emergency...
When the emergency is over and the "all clear" message is given by the local authorities, you should:


  • Open doors and windows.
  • Turn on your heating/cooling system to ventilate the house.
  • Go outside.

If An Evacuation Is Needed
If a serious incident occurs, public officials may request an evacuation. Entry into the evacuated area may be restricted by law enforcement officials until the emergency is over. If time permits, consider the following:


  • Pack only what you and your family will need most: extra clothing, prescription drugs, diapers, identification and driver's license.
  • When you leave your home, turn off lights, household appliances, heating and cooling systems. Leave on your refrigerator and freezer, and lock your house.
  • If you need a ride to evacuate, try first to ride with a neighbor or relative.

Putting Together Your Emergency Kit
In the event of an emergency, you should have a "Shelter in Place" kit that will enable you to survive for 3 days or more. The best time to assemble that kit is right now. You will need the following:


  1. Bottled water
  2. • at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days


  3. Food - for 3 to 7 days
  4. • non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
    • foods for infants or the elderly
    • snack foods
    • non-electric can opener
    • cooking tools / fuel
    • paper plates / plastic utensils


  5. Blankets / Pillows, etc.


  6. Clothing - seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes


  7. Toiletries - hygiene items


  8. Flashlight and extra batteries


  9. Portable radio and extra batteries


  10. Plastic sheeting


  11. Two rolls of duct tape


  12. Scissors


  13. Cloth and paper towels


  14. First-aid kit, Necessary medications


  15. Toys, Books and Games


  16. Important documents - in a waterproof container
  17. • insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.
    • document all valuables with videotape or DVD if possible


  18. Tools - keep a set with you


  19. Pet Care Items - if you have pets

Remember, your safety will depend on your willingness to be prepared. Keep this information handy. Review is with family members. Pack an emergency supply kit. Be alert. Be safe.




Fairfax Joint Local Emergency Planning Committee   -   10700 Page Avenue   Fairfax, Virginia USA   22030
Telephone (703) 246-4386    -   Email: paula.woodrum@fairfaxcounty.gov


 Copyright 2008-2013 Fairfax Joint LEPC    -   All Rights Reserved in the USA

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